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Velvet underground exhumed – discovery and development of a new mining front at the Kanowna Belle gold mine


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Author G Lorusso, J Rogers and G Tripp


The Velvet gold orebody (153 Koz Au) is located near the Kanowna Belle gold deposit in the Boorara Domain of the Kalgoorlie Terrane, a subdivision of the Archaean Eastern Goldfields Superterrane (Swager et al, 1990). Gold mineralisation at Velvet is hosted within an intrusion of intermediate composition that broadly follows a sub vertical hanging wall splay of the Fitzroy Shear Zone.

Velvet was discovered in 2003 during an underground exploration drilling program targeting potential strike extensions to the Kanowna Belle deposit. Diamond drill hole KDU1595 returned a downhole intercept of 36 m grading 4.6 ppm Au approximately 500 m west of the deposit and at a vertical depth of 700 m below surface in the immediate hanging wall of the primary Kanowna Belle host structure, the Fitzroy Shear Zone. Subsequent drilling completed following the initial discovery, from both surface and underground collar positions, failed to replicate this result.

In 2014, KDU1595 was resurveyed gyroscopically and the mineralised intercept correctly located. Additional drilling was undertaken to follow-up the repositioned discovery hole. Challenges included poor drilling angles through the Fitzroy Shear Zone, excessive deviation during drilling and the unknown geometry of the target. Navigational drilling helped to successfully penetrate the Fitzroy Shear Zone and in April 2015, drill hole KDU3234 returned a significant downhole intercept of 45 m grading 5.6 ppm Au.

Additional drilling success resulted in a decision to develop a 600 m drive to serve as a dual-purpose access for further exploration and mining. This was a potential risk considering that the orebody geometry was unknown and all significant drilling results were clustered within a 50 m × 50 m panel. Development commenced in June 2015 and the first ore cut taken in April 2016. Geological mapping and structural interpretation, together with multi-element and spectral analysis of drill samples has enabled several other target areas to be identified for exploration. The Velvet mining area is critical to continued production at Kanowna Belle. Geological understanding must advance as mining progresses to ensure continued resource growth and optimal extraction of reserves.


Lorusso, G, Rogers, J and Tripp, G, 2017. Velvet underground exhumed – discovery and development of a new mining front at the Kanowna Belle gold mine, in Proceedings Tenth International Mining Geology Conference 2017, pp 169–174 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).